ErosBlog: The Sex Blog

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ErosBlog posts containing "Pornocalypse"

 
November 13th, 2015 -- by Bacchus

Modigliani’s #Pornocalypse

modigliania-reclining-nude uncensored

This painting is Modigliani’s Nu couché, or “Reclining Nude” as it is usually rendered in English. To my pornified eye, it is no thing at all — a crudely-rendered oil painting with muddy colors, of interest (if at all) for the expression on the woman’s face. But that is why they don’t let me into fancy auction houses. Former taxi driver and current Chinese billionaire Liu Yiqian thought it was worth 170 million bucks, and for that price bought it this week.

And here’s where it gets interesting. As Mashable reports, the financial press (but pretty much nobody else) found the painting too shocking to put on TV, and felt the need to fuzz out the naughty bits (tits included!) for its audience of stockbrokers and mature persons of business. CNBC, Bloomberg TV, the Financial Times — none of them thought their audiences could handle this boring old canvas in its filthy uncensored glory:

modigliani-reclining nude financial press censored

modigliani-reclining-nude with censor bars

This cannot possibly be a “protect the children” impulse. How many children do you know who watch CNBC? Or who read the Financial Times? I can only speculate about the true motive, but to me it speaks of the reasons underlying the #pornocalypse. I’ve mentioned before that #pornocalypse begins to show its ugly ass when an internet company reaches that certain stage in its life-cycle where bankers and stockbrokers are getting involved. Steve Jobs {spit!} aside, the anti-sex squeamishness typically isn’t coming from the tech industry, it shows up when it’s time to start dealing in serious money.

I don’t know why financiers can’t handle a little bit of nudity in their financial reportage. But there’s nobody more slavish toward the whims of money than a financial press editor. I think we can safely trust that they know their moneyed audience. Call this proof of a sort: the #pornocalypse is an artifact of the prudishness of the rich.

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October 17th, 2015 -- by Bacchus

Social Media #Pornocalypse Is Why We Can’t Have Nudes In Playboy

pornocalypse-pitfall

It’s no secret that since 2005 or so, I have attempted to make a living at sex blogging. What may be news (if hardly surprising) is that I am no longer succeeding. The single biggest reason (and what I currently perceive as my largest business challenge) is that in 2015 there is no hope of growth in web traffic without social media, and social media companies are (predominantly) hostile to adult content. Generalizing: you can’t put (or link to) smut on social media, you can’t grow or even maintain your web traffic without social media, and so it’s very hard to make money on the adult web. Traffic and revenue decline, and there’s no way to chase it where it is. Back in 2012 at ErosBlog’s 10 anniversary, I wrote:

But what about the future? Will ErosBlog still be here in 2017? I’m less confident than I was in 2007; I grow older and move more slowly, while the world speeds up and accelerates into the future. But I’m persistent, and I’m stubborn. Unless I stop being entertained by porn (which seems unlikely) I can’t imagine not having bits of it that need pointed at and talked about. So, just as I did in 2007, I’ll say “I truly do hope so!”

I still hope so, yes I do. But it’s no longer clear that ErosBlog can survive as a profit-making enterprise. One of these days it may become a hobby, and a hobby with a much cheaper and less reliable server at that. I sometimes flatter myself that crowdfunding might offer a way forward, but it’s not immune from #pornocalypse either.

Enough about ErosBlog. Icons of the adult industry much bigger than me are struggling with the same dynamic. When your problems are also Hugh Hefner’s problems, you’re at least in good company. When I drunkenly posted the other night about the then-breaking news that Playboy was going to be putting panties on all of its Playmates going forward, commenter André adroitly identified the story as a #pornocalypse situation:

Pornocalypse comes to Playboy. Of all places. It was a common sense business decision, apparently. Porn is everywhere, so Playboy had long lost their edge, and in an age of sanitized social media, their only way to make it into mainstream platforms (Facebook et at) to – in their mind – secure a viable future (doubtful!) was to clean their act up and hide the nudity that offends the terms of service of those platforms.

André should write for Wired magazine. Here’s Wired:

Times have changed. Nudity and pornography are ubiquitous on the Internet. And people are buying fewer magazines overall, choosing instead to read online. Meanwhile, those same readers increasingly come to stories through third-party platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Those platforms have their own rules, and often prohibit or limit nudity. For Playboy to survive in a platform-driven world, the pressure to conform to those standards is immense—so much so that the publication is abandoning the core of its brand’s identity.

This isn’t really a new thing for Playboy. The company already transitioned its website away from full nudity, for the same reason:

Playboy‘s shift isn’t completely new. The magazine re-launched Playboy.com last year “as a safe-for-work site,” and has seen significant success. “Tens of millions of readers come to our non-nude website and app every month for, yes, photos of beautiful women, but also for articles and videos from our humor, sex and culture, style, nightlife, entertainment and video game sections,” the magazine says.

The company’s chief executive, Scott Flanders [says] that some content was made SFW “in order to be allowed on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.” The Times also reports that following the website’s shift away from nudity traffic to the site increased “to about 16 million from about four million uniques users per month” as “the average age of its reader dropped from 47 to just over 30″—in other words, a demographic totally at home on social media.

Here’s the Wired summary of social media’s hostility to adult content:

On many social media platforms, the so-called community standards barring explicit content aren’t that different from what Hefner felt he was rebelling against when he famously published Marilyn Monroe’s nude centerfold back in 1953. Facebook, the company says, “restricts the display of nudity because some audiences within our global community may be sensitive to this type of content.” Twitter requires that sensitive content like nudity be marked as such so it can be hidden behind a warning. Celebrities and activists have had little luck in their campaign to have Instagram “free the nipple.” Apple’s App Store guidelines, meanwhile, warn that “apps containing pornographic material… will be rejected.”

This, my friends, is why we can’t have nice adult things. Discovery is no longer via search. (Google killed search for adult sites several years back anyway.) Discovery is via social media. And social media is hostile to adult. It’s not just me. Maybe “Bacchus” at a dumb little 13-year-old sex blog just doesn’t “get” how to market on the modern platforms-and-silos internet. But when freakin’ Hugh Hefner himself abandons the core of his venerable brand, which is models wearing no panties, because the social media platforms are hostile to ladies without panties? It’s not just me. It’s a thing.

I think I shall call it #Pornocalypse.

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October 16th, 2015 -- by Bacchus

Erotica On Amazon #Pornocalypse, 2015 Edition

Erotica author Selena Kitt is the one who first brought the term #Pornocalypse to my attention, back in 2013. Then and now, her beat is Amazon’s bizarre blunderings in the realm of trying to pretend for investors and the public that they don’t have books about sex, even while books about sex remain a huge seller for them. Selena’s latest:

Pornocalypse 2015 is upon us!

It’s a far too complicated and inside-baseball story for me to summarize well, but the gist is that Amazon has started dumping entire publisher catalogs into the “erotica” category (which gets no search visibility on the site and is thus the kiss of death) if the publisher in question publishes any erotica. Cookbooks, horror, sci-fi, doesn’t matter. This should give you the flavor of the piece:

In my conversation with the Amazon customer service representative about this situation, I was told, “We are improving our ability to identify erotic content, so you’ll see more books put into erotica going forward.”

Me: Just going forward?

CS: No, we’ll also be identifying other content and moving it into the erotica categories.

Me: How will you be identifying this content?

CS: I can’t tell you that.

Me: How can we get our books out of erotica?

CS: You can change the content and resubmit it.

Me: How would we know what to change?

CS: …

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September 10th, 2015 -- by Bacchus

Pornocalypse Comes For Your Keyword Searches

#Pornocalypse. It comes for us all, yadda yadda. But what is it, really?

pinterest-blowjobs

When I first started talking about #pornocalypse, I had a very specific observation to share about the corporate/financial life cycle of internet companies. In the typical cases, internet ventures are adult-friendly when their service is new, and so they enjoy a robust pulse of early traffic from people playing with porn on their platform. Then, as a service/company grows, there comes an irresistible financial pressure to “sanitize” the product, kicking off all the porn so that nobody in corporate management has to confront their own hypocrisy or the squeamishness of financial counterparties when the company seeks to go public, get acquired, or raise additional capital.

Although I first used #pornocalypse to talk about the distinctive pulse of porn bans and adult-industry user purges that we see at the “cashing in” stage of an internet venture’s corporate life cycle, I’ve come to realize that that’s not the whole story. For instance, it’s growing more common for companies to plan their “cashing in” phase from day one, so they may ban all the porn ab initio, giving up the helpful porn influence on the early growth phase in exchange for less hassle during the cashing-out phase. Nowadays it’s harder to tie porn-hostile corporate behavior to the formerly-notorious moment when prudish investment bankers would start looking aghast at all the porny traffic. So I’ve come to use #pornocalypse more loosely, as a handy shorthand for any porn-hostile moves by internet companies.

All that’s by way of preface. This post is about a particular pornocalyptic dodge that we’re seeing more frequently in recent years. Along with content deletions and user bans, a growing trend is to fuck with discovery. The porn is there — and the terms of service may even allow it to stay there — but the search and discovery tools won’t show it to anybody. Welcome to invisibility, you porny motherfuckers.

For a early example, consider this post from 2011, in which I visually documented how Google’s then-new(ish) autocomplete service (sometimes called Google Instant) considered Violet Blue too porny to suggest when suggesting searches on the fly:

no Gooogle autocomplete for Violet Blue

I was unaware when I posted that back in 2011 that 2600.com had already sussed out and published a long list of the keywords that Google Instant was blocking. It turns out that Violet was in astonishingly good company! Here are the names of actual humans I was able to identify on the list:

How did Violet Blue get on this Google blue list? Well, it’s not clear; but it might become clearer if you take out all of the porn performers and the pop-culture celebrities. Ogle this shorter list:

I don’t know everything about all of the people on that list, but I see a lot of sex educators, and I know that at least three of them (four, with Violet) have been in the past or remain to this day closely associated with Good Vibrations, the famous female-friendly San Francisco sex store with the educational mission at goodvibes.com. Hey, do you suppose Good Vibrations was also on the ban list? Well, duh; as surely as bears shit in woods, there they are:

goodvibes are naughty

My theory: at some point, an anonymous blue-list technician decided to give Good Vibrations and its whole crew the naughty words treatment. Why? I doubt we’ll ever know. But it may have been well before Google acquired and implemented this particular blue list; after all, Violet was gone from Good Vibrations after 2006. (The short selection of megafamous porn performers also seemed curiously dated even in 2010, suggesting again that the list may have been in circulation for a long time before Google got it.)

By now we understand that there’s a long-established ecosystem of blue list sharing among tech companies and blue-list technicians. More evidence: in 2012 the CEO of Shutterstock (a stock photography site) posted to GitHub a list of 342 “dirty, naughty, obscene, and otherwise bad words” that starred Violet’s name as the only person on the blue list. Although by then the vintage porn stars and Violet’s compatriots in the Good Vibrations San Francisco sex mafia had been scrubbed, the list shares clear ancestry with the Google list as exposed by 2600.com. Consider the persistence of “leather straight jacket” on both lists. Not only is this an oddly specific item for a naughty words list, it’s doubly erroneous; the item in question is most often written as “straitjacket” (one word, no “g”). How likely is it that “leather straight jacket” got put on both lists without those lists having a common source?

The only conclusion is that blue-list engineers have been passing around and sharing their blue lists for a long time, and likely were were already doing so back when Google grabbed and implemented the list with Violet’s name on it. This process continues; the Shutterstock list at GitHub has been forked 112 times since 2012, which emphasizes to me that tech companies continue to seek, modify, and implement these blue lists in their products, sharing their efforts as they go.

Unfortunately for prudish tech companies, no such blue lists long survive contact with the enemy. (That would be us.) In the age of the hashtag, users get very creative about tagging the adult goodies they want to share and see. Thus did Instagram, which is famously porn-hostile, came in for a lot of ridicule this summer when its Long Guerrilla War On Porn got featured on Talking Points Memo:

But as many porn hashtags as there are, many more have been quietly erased by Instagram, revealing nothing when you search for them. Pop in #sex and you’re told “No posts found.” Ditto #adult, #stripper, #vagina, #penis, #cleavage. Even the Internet’s ultimate innuendo, the eggplant, wasn’t safe. You can still tag your posts with banned hashtags and emojis, but good luck finding your community within. Typo-laden tags have popped up to accommodate these arbitrary bans: #boobs is gone, but as I write this, #boobss has well over 600,000 posts; #adult’s spinoff #adule is quickly closing in on 100,000. The tag for #seduce may now be useless, but variants like #seduced and #seductivsaturday cropped up in its place—though it’s worth noting that in the weeks since I’ve been writing this article, #seductiv, the tag that brought me into this world to begin with, has vanished entirely, as has #boobss, #adule, and #eggplantparm, after BuzzFeed caught wind of the fact that the eggplant emoji was not searchable on the app. The goalposts on these hashtags have moved considerably: In 2012, Huffington Post reporter Bianca Bosker wrote about Instagram’s early porn community, but back then, the banned hashtags were far more intuitive: #instaporn, for instance, or #fuckme.

Some more light was shed on Instagram’s evolving war on hashtags after they caught a ton of flak from the body-positive community for banning #curvy from their search results. Of course they claimed it was an automated mistake, and later unblocked the #curvy hashtag after giving it an intensive human-driven curatorial scrubbing:

After a week of controversy, Instagram is unblocking the #curvy hashtag, effective Thursday afternoon.

Instagram first prevented users from searching for photos with the term last week, prompting a huge backlash from users and women’s advocacy groups who were outraged to see a term normally associated with body-positive messages removed from the site. A spate of replacement hashtags, including “curvee,” “bringcurvyback” sprang up to fill in the gap.

The problem was that the #curvy hashtag was being used for other reasons, said Nicky Jackson Colaco, Instagram’s director of public policy. Namely, pornography.

And the tag was overrun, she said. Instagram has protocols in place to flag when any term is being consistently associated with content that breaks the company’s terms of service. Jackson Colaco said that Instagram removes several tags every day when analysis from the company’s automated and human content filtering systems get reports from users that they’ve become a problem. And at some point last week, #curvy hit the tipping point.

As Instagram moves to restore the hashtag, it’s also taken the time to find new tools to help it better parse through the photos that its 300 million users post to the site every day. That means stepping up curation of the hashtag, particularly on sections of the service that highlight the “top posts” and “most recent” posts using the marker to make sure that no one looking at #curvy pictures gets an obscene surprise.

The discovery pornocalypse is also highly visible at Tumblr. Do they seriously think anybody will believe this negative search result?

no search results for anal sex on Tumblr

Now, in Tumblr’s case, there’s a workaround. They’ll let you turn off the filtering. But study that page. Click the graphic for the full-sized version. Do you see a “These results are filtered” link that you can click to turn off the filter? You will look in vain for that. If you were sufficiently credulous, you might even come to believe that there’s no anal sex on Tumblr at all. That would seem to be the impression Tumblr wants to convey to the naive searcher. If you’re willing to believe that, Tumblr is delighted to let you believe it.

But what if you’re not quite that stupid? What if you’re looking at that screen and mumbling “Fuckers! I know you’ve got some anal in here somewhere! What do I have to do to see it?”

Well, look closely. Look double closely. Somewhere on that page there’s an icon, nine pixels wide by twelve pixels high. If you can find those 108 pixels, and and if you can guess what they mean, causing you to click upon them, then (and only then) Tumblr’s anal floodgates will open for you. Good luck!

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June 30th, 2015 -- by Bacchus

Network Effects Are Why #Pornocalypse Is Bad News

Here is a Guardian article that’s all about the trouble Big Data is having with its primary business model. Supposedly the model is to track (spy on) users, then use what Big Data learns about us to do better advertising (and then charge a lot of money for that). The article says this model’s not going so well (for reasons). But I was rather more interested in a tidbit about the other business model that is working rather better for Facebook:

The other profitable line for Facebook is sneakier, and possibly longer-lived. The company can easily see which of the commercial/brand/business pages on its service are growing fastest. These correspond to the businesses that are exerting the most energy to get their customers to follow them on Facebook and making Facebook most integral to their daily business.

When Facebook’s algorithms predict that a business is well and truly reliant upon Facebook to reach its customers, it simply switches off the business’s ability to reach those customers, so that new updates only go to a small fraction of the company’s followers. Thereafter, a Facebook salesperson gives the business a call and offer to turn the tap back on – for a price. That’s not the surveillance business-model. It’s a much older one: the drug-dealer business-model, where the first taste is free.

What’s going on here is that instead of spying on consumers to sell more and better ads, Facebook is instead monetizing its own network effects. Businesses have to pay up; they can’t just “go somewhere else” because all the people they need to reach are (for the time being) stuck on Facebook too. It’s one big sticky wad of flypaper, and the glue is Metcalfe’s Law (basically, networks are more valuable the more people who use them).

This is somewhat related to my #Pornocalypse ranting because access to social media is so difficult for people doing adult business. Big Face says “we don’t want your stinky porn on our network” and an entire industry is locked out of one of the most useful networks on the planet. Multiply that by basically every other social network of size except Tumblr and Twitter, and it’s a serious problem. That’s why we are so sensitive to #Pornocalypse rumblings at Tumblr and Twitter and on any other more minor social networks where adult content is still welcome: it’s far too easy to imagine a world where marketing absolutely requires access to social media, and in which adult businesses are completely excluded from those networks.

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June 14th, 2015 -- by Bacchus

Banks And The #Pornocalypse: Operation Choke Point

Back in 2014, I wrote a little bit about Operation Choke Point, the US Department of Justice effort to intimidate banks into refusing to handle the banking business of a wide variety of politically-disfavored industries, including the adult industry. Facts on the ground were, and are, few.

I’m not sure Franklin Veaux’s recent experiences with mysteriously losing his credit card processing for the Onyx sex game he sells (which looks like a fun way to loosen up a nerdy party and at least encourage it in the direction of a friendly orgy) can count as confirmation of the Operation Choke Point story, but he’s correct that his experience perfectly matches the profile:

This past April, I received notification from Best Payment Solutions that they were terminating my account. They gave no reason, other than they “sometimes terminate accounts for risk reasons.” In the thirteen years I’d been with them, I’d only had one chargeback–a rather remarkable record I doubt few businesses can match. Didn’t matter.

I was told that BPS would no longer work with me, but their parent company, Vantiv, would be happy to give me a merchant account. Vantiv’s underwriters, I was told, had looked at my Web site and had no problem with its contents.

So I did the requisite paperwork, turned it all in, and…nothing. For weeks, during which time I was effectively out of business.

Then, four weeks later, I heard back from Vantiv. We’re so sorry, they said, we thought we could give you a merchant account, but we can’t. When I asked why, the only thing they would say was “risk reasons.”

Thus ensued a mad scramble to find a new merchant account underwriter, a process that’s normally very time-consuming and tedious. I finally found another underwriter, which I will decline to name for reasons that will become obvious once you read the rest of this post, and I’m back up and running again…but not before I was out of business for over a month.

The rest of Franklin’s article reports on a backlash against Operation Choke Point, spearheaded (ironically) by the conservative media after reports that small retailers of guns and ammo were among the thirty or so disfavored groups targeted. According to Wikipedia, Operation Choke Point has been more-or-less terminated in response to the backlash:

On January 29, 2015, the FDIC issued a Financial Institution Letter that states “The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) issued a Financial Institution Letter today encouraging supervised institutions to take a risk-based approach in assessing individual customer relationships, rather than declining to provide banking services to entire categories of customers without regard to the risks presented by an individual customer or the financial institution’s ability to manage the risk.

The Washington Times says this letter “effectively ends Operation Choke Point.” As reported by Forbes, “a change in the political landscape, many businesses threatening legal action and a congressman with a background in banking [forced] the bureaucracy to admit to misconduct and to stop financial attacks on legal businesses that the Obama administration deems to be politically incorrect.” Reports of continued termination of services to legitimate businesses, however, continue.

They do indeed continue, as witnessed by Franklin’s recent loss of processing. The people he dealt with were pretty clear that the “risk reasons” for not doing business with him didn’t have anything to do with the actual risks posed by his business. Whatever the official status of Operation Choke Point, it sounds as if the banks are still terminating banking relationships with adult-industry businesses to avoid official disapproval, however informal.

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June 2nd, 2015 -- by Bacchus

Why Can’t You Search For Eggplants On Instagram? #Pornocalypse!

This article in Talking Points Memo goes into impressive detail on how Instagram is fighting its #Pornocalypse war on nudity. As quick as they ban a salacious hashtag, the users switch to a new and more innocuous-sounding one:

It’s not just penises that are taking Instagram’s backchannels by storm, it’s all manners of sexy bits: 15-second jerkoff videos, exposed anuses, a bevy of braless breasts—the latter of which are sometimes part of a highly politicized battle to “Free the Nipple” on the photo-sharing app. Though nudity is banned by Instagram’s community guidelines, a cottage industry of illicit hashtags has sprung up to find and share these photos, everything from the more mundanely-phrased #seduced and #exposed for broad nudity, to the community-specific tags such as #femdomme and #daddydick, intended more for kink. And that’s saying nothing of the droves of cleverly-punned tags such as #eggplantparm, which may turn you off Italian food for quite some time. These naked photos are so ubiquitous that I’ve yet to search a kink that hasn’t pulled up at least a few steamy selfies.

But as many porn hashtags as there are, many more have been quietly erased by Instagram, revealing nothing when you search for them. Pop in #sex and you’re told “No posts found.” Ditto #adult, #stripper, #vagina, #penis, #cleavage. Even the Internet’s ultimate innuendo, the eggplant, wasn’t safe. You can still tag your posts with banned hashtags and emojis, but good luck finding your community within. Typo-laden tags have popped up to accommodate these arbitrary bans: #boobs is gone, but as I write this, #boobss has well over 600,000 posts; #adult’s spinoff #adule is quickly closing in on 100,000. The tag for #seduce may now be useless, but variants like #seduced and #seductivsaturday cropped up in its place—though it’s worth noting that in the weeks since I’ve been writing this article, #seductiv, the tag that brought me into this world to begin with, has vanished entirely, as has #boobss, #adule, and #eggplantparm, after BuzzFeed caught wind of the fact that the eggplant emoji was not searchable on the app.

In addition to playing hashtag Whack-a-Mole, Instagram apparently plays post Whack-a-Mole and account Whack-a-Mole. But all you need for a new account is a new email:

Ramon, a 28-year-old from Rhode Island with a particularly impressive penis, says he’s had both photos pulled and profiles banned by Instagram, and yet has rejoined under various handles several times. “All you need is an email [address] and you open an account. It’s simple,” he says. “I’ll do it when I’m bored.”

Pornocalypse, of course, is baked in Instagram’s very bones; they have never been nudity friendly.

Instagram’s puritanical and often gender-biased stance towards stark nudity and the more nebulous moral boundaries it imposes on its members is nothing new. Since their launch in 2010, the app, which is open to use for anyone aged 13 and above with a valid email account, has been constantly battling the problem of how to keep the community as open as possible while also protecting its members from things deemed unsavory, like naked body parts.

It’s a long article with a lot more in it. Worth your time!

 
 
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